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U.S. consumer spending remains healthy in May

Staff writer |
Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $93 in May, similar to the average $95 in April as well as in May 2015 ($91).

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The latest number indicates consumer spending remained elevated after an uptick in April, but did not increase further.

The May results reflect two larger trends in Gallup tracking of consumer spending habits: generally higher spending in the spring months than in the winter months, and higher spending in recent years than from 2009 through early 2012.

During that earlier period, as the U.S. suffered through recession and high unemployment, average daily reports of spending consistently held below $80. In late 2012, consumer activity began to pick up and continued to do so into 2013. Since May 2013, average spending has been $90.

Gallup asks Americans each night as part of Gallup Daily tracking to report how much they spent or charged "yesterday," excluding normal household bills and major purchases such as a home or vehicle. The estimate gives a sense of Americans' discretionary spending.

The surge in Gallup's daily spending reports in April was confirmed by a subsequent Department of Commerce report finding an unusually large spike in retail spending in April. That increase came after sluggish spending in the first quarter, resulting in weak economic growth.

Gallup's latest spending estimate suggests there was not a major falloff in spending in May.

Spending changes between April and May have not followed a consistent pattern in Gallup's trend. In most years, the two figures are similar, but there have been two instances, in 2008 and 2014, of increases in May.

Those surges came after relatively weak April estimates, suggesting the usual spring increase may have been delayed in those years. The May 2008 spike was also likely primed by government rebate checks sent to all Americans, beginning in late April, as part of the economic stimulus plan.

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